Education conference speaker Dr. Na'im
Akbar signs a book.
(Photo:Kai Christopher/Echo Staff photographer)
There’s a crisis in America. Not the war in Iraq, not the war in Afghanistan, but the ongoing war in America.
Teachers, university faculty and administrators, social workers, mentors and some teenaged black males attended the 2nd Annual African-American Males in Education Conference March 29–30, hoping to inspire.
“For every 240 Blacks and Hispanics who go to prison, one — one — graduates from college,” said Beverly Jones, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at N.C. Central University, during her opening address.
The urgent message echoed by other presenters throughout the conference was unanimous: “We must save our young black men.”
Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the N.C. Chapter of NAACP and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, opened the general sessions by telling the biblical story of Benaiah, who slew a lion in a pit on a snowy day.
“We have always, black brothers, faced lions, and we face them now,” Barber said. “In this racist American culture — the white supremacy side of this culture — it has always sought the destruction and the emasculation of the black man.”
According to a Feb. 2007 report by Action for Children, a non-partisan non-profit organization, blacks are suspended from school at a disproportionate rate compared to whites.
During the 2004-2005 school year in Durham County, 30 percent of black students were suspended for 10 days or less, versus 6 percent of white students.
The N.C. General Assembly reported this year that a disproportionate number of blacks are dropping out of school.
The report states that 7,641 black dropouts did not return to school.
According to Carl L. Robinson, an NCCU assistant professor in the School of Education, young black children often come to school carrying more than their backpacks — they carry all their socio-economic issues from home: poverty, substandard housing and unemployment.
Robinson urged those attending the conference to pay attention to students who are struggling.
“Until we change a community,” Robinson said, “[the] unfamiliar world is an unforgiving world.”
One of those students who struggled in school was Jason Dorsette, an NCCU history senior.
Dorsette shared his personal story in a panel discussion at the conference.
Dorsette said that when he first came to NCCU, he partied a lot and was “hangin’ with the girls and the fellas.”
As a result, his academic scores plummeted.
It was only when he was on the borderline of academic probation that Dorsette finally matured, focused and started working hard on improving his grades.
Today Dorsette is president of the NCCU Chapter of Collegiate 100 Black Men of America.
“I am living witness that you can overcome anything that has held you down,” said Dorsette.
Dorothy M. Singleton, director of the Institute for the Study of Minority Issues and co-founder of the conference, said the conference was her passion.
“I know this is my ministry,” Singleton said.
“African-American males ... have been looked over and abused. We as a people have got excuses for everything.
“There are no excuses if you want to be successful,” she said.